10,000 Muslims Laugh at a Rabbi

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Stand-up comic Rabbi Bob Alper headlines at Muslimfest 2009. Really.

A Muslim and a Jew performing at a college whose mascot is a pig!

Stand-up comic Rabbi Bob Alper will headline at Ontario's award-winning festival, Muslimfest 2009, in Mississauga, August 2nd.

Alper, who performs internationally with Muslim comedians in The Laugh in Peace Tour, has been doing stand-up for 23 years, following a successful career serving synagogues in Buffalo and Philadelphia.

"I was thrilled to receive the invitation to appear at Muslimfest," says Alper. "During the past seven years I've seen repeatedly how shared laughter diffuses suspicion and builds bridges between formerly unconnected communities. This is a concept that the organizers of Muslimfest 2009 also value."

"We try to work with Canada's rich diversity to foster an understanding of each other's culture and identity; having Rabbi Bob Alper perform will further develop this," says Amer Meknas, director of Muslimfest 2009. The festival, now in its sixth year, aims to highlight Muslim arts and culture, celebrate diversity, and build lasting relationships with other groups - and has won multiple awards for its effective pioneer efforts.

What started as an experiment in 2002 now constitutes nearly half of the rabbi's annual tour schedule. Alper and his first comedy partner, Ahmed Ahmed, performed at synagogues and a mosque, but their unique, clean comedy soon caught on at college campuses with Jewish and Muslim groups co-sponsoring. One year, Alper and Ahmed were invited to the University of Arkansas, home of the "razorbacks." "Very cool," Alper observed. "A Muslim and a Jew performing at a college whose mascot is a pig!"

When Ahmed's career transitioned into movie roles, Alper was joined by Azhur Usman*, an attorney by training and founder of the "Allah Made Me Funny" group. Alper reflects how "traveling across North America and performing with Azhar is exciting and loads of fun, but it can also be daunting. People respond to Azhar with anger, fear, suspicion, and event hatred. Which is understandable. Because he is, of course . . . a lawyer." Last year, CNN Headline News aired a profile of the duo http://www.wptz.com/video/17250540/index.html .

Alper also performs occasionally with Mo Amer, another member of "Allah Made Me Funny." Following a show at Congregation Kol Ami, a synagogue in White Plains, NY, Amer asked Alper what "kol ami" means. "It's Hebrew for 'voice of my people'" Alper explained. To which Amer responded, "Oh. Because in Arabic, it means 'eat my uncle.'"

Muslimfest 2009 will take place at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, during the Civic Holiday Weekend, August 1st and 2nd, 2009.

*Azhar and Bob will tour Vermont August 8-10: one church, two synagogues, and a theatre.

Rabbi Bob Alper -- 802-362-4464 -- http://www.bobalper.com
Mariam Munawar -- 416-457-7421 -- http://www.muslimfest.com


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